Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Wider, Broader, Richer: Trinitarian Theology and Ministerial Order

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Wider, Broader, Richer: Trinitarian Theology and Ministerial Order

Article excerpt

Developing expressions of ministry are evident across the Anglican Communion. This paper seeks to address the "crisis in ministry," as some call it, by offering a theology of relational ministry fitting with these culturally diverse developments. Drawing from the doctrine of the Trinity, the paper argues that ordered or relational ministry arises out of and is formed by the relational nature of the Triune God, known in Christ and the Spirit in the world as an outward movement of generosity. The understanding of order and ministry arises out of a communio ecclesiology that is viewed asa "method" or an "ecclesial disposition." What this means for order and ministry requires ongoing vigilance and theological reflection. This paper is such an undertaking. It does so by drawing on historical precedent and present cultural inclination so as to develop an understanding of ordered ministry in its dynamic and diverse but relational sacramental identity.

The Developing Practice of Ministry

The theology of ministry has been a prominent theme in ecclesiology over recent decades. New models of ministry and the expansion of ministries that have arisen in response to the present context of church and contemporary society have been part of current theological reflection. The developing role of the laity together with renewed conceptions of order and ministry began to appear during the latter part of the twentieth century, as has the growing voice of the "church from below."1 This is reflected in new approaches to ministry, including the ordained ministry within provinces such as those in the Vnited Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada, but also in the growing postcolonial and pluralist voice within the Anglican Communion more generally. Thus we have seen, for example, the renewal of the diaconate and the increased recognition of priestly ministry within business, industry, hospitals, schools, and so forth. Women are now ordained in many parts of the Anglican Communion, while lay presidency and the ordination of homosexual men and women remain issues of contention and division within the Communion. As David Cox observed, "No longer was the Anglican clergyman necessarily male, a priest, or in full-time parochial ministry," and nor was the clergy's authority and standing in the wider community what it had once been.2

These developments have contributed to what some call a crisis in the understanding and practice of order and ministry. The crisis is noted especially with regard to the nature and meaning of the ordained ministry when status and/or sacerdotal identity seem discounted or diminished in the face of developing lay ministries.3 On the other hand, the crisis in ministry has also been evoked, some argue, by more recent therapeutic or managerial paradigms that have arisen in the latter half of the twentieth century. Ministerial ideals that arise out of therapeutic or managerial models may have contributed to a destabilization of the identity of ordained ministers, or encouraged unhealthy or mistaken ecclesia] practice.4

However, the reasons for this sense of crisis in ministry are also cultural and theological. It is an interlocking crisis, as Duncan Forrester lias suggested, because it is related more generally to "the plaee of the Christian faith and the function of the Christian church in our society, and to a whole series of pressing and complex issues about the integrity, cohesion and viability of secular pluralism."0 And more than ever in our post-September 11. 2001 context, we have to ask questions about the way we practice our faith and ministry in a religiously pluralistic time, while being reminded vet again of the ways the practice of religion may not only be unhelpful but downright dangerous.6 Our understanding and practice of order and ministry are crucial in the face of these sobering realities because ministerial praxis is formative of our church life and of the more general practice of Christian faith today. …

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